South Africa have expanded their attacking horizons since winning the last World Cup back in 2019, but Scotland defence coach Steve Tandy believes the fundamental challenge facing any team taking on the Springboks is the same as it has always been.

If you don’t meet the physical challenge head-on, then you will be steamrollered by a nation where the value of brute power is hard-wired into the collective DNA, so that is where tonight’s World Cup opener is going to be won or lost reasons the 43-year-old Welshman who has been credited with revolutionising Scotland’s defensive play since his appointment in the aftermath of the team’s 2019 World Cup flop.

“You know they are going to try to come through the front door so physically we have to be on the money,” said Tandy during yesterday’s eve of match press conference. “We believe in our physicality and in the way we want to go about imposing that physicality whether it is at the breakdown or the tackle contest.

“Their game has gone to another level when you look at their transition play, the threat of their back-three and Manie Libbok’s kicking game – his little dinks and things like that – so we have to be ready for that.

“But, first and foremost, you have to pitch up against South Africa otherwise you are going to spend a lot of time on the back foot.”

Tandy added that while he was impressed with South Africa’s performance when hammering New Zealand 35-7 in their last World Cup warm-up match, he didn't see anything to convince him that a surprise win is an impossibility.

“We thought about what we might do differently [to the All Blacks], and where we can put pressure on South Africa with our systems,” he said.

“We know we will have to absorb at certain points against South Africa, but we’re also thinking about how we can put our game on them as well.

“We are aware that there is no hiding place, but when I look around our training group and our environment, I believe in our boys and I know the players believe in themselves.

“We know it is going to be an unbelievably physical challenge, but we believe in the way we want to play.”
Tonight’s referee is Australian Angus Gardner, who has awarded 30 penalties against Scotland the last two times he has been the man in the middle for their matches, which includes five scrum penalties when the Springboks visited Murrayfield in the Autumn of 2021 – but Tandy insisted that he and his fellow coaches are not particularly worried about history repeating itself tonight.

“There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then,” he reasoned. “Our game has developed massively since then.

“We’ve watched it back a good few times and we recognise the strength of South Africa, but it is really good to look back on and see where we’ve come to as well – and the performances we’ve put in off the back of that.

“A couple of years is a long time and we’ve grown in set-piece, in defence, in attack, and as a group we’ve grown on and off the field, so we’d like to think that we’ll look after ourselves in and around the discipline area this weekend.

“There are always conversations around your discipline, particularly in big games,” he added. “You don’t want to give teams like South Africa too many entries into your 22 because we know how physical they can be in that area of the field.

“But I think over the last four games and in the Six Nations our penalty count was low considering the number of tackles we had to make – apart from a little blip at home against Italy when our penalty count went up – so it is definitely something we’ve looked at and improved.

“It is something we have to be take on board – being squeaky clean because we don’t give free entries up – but Angus is really clear and a really good referee,” he added.